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The great restorations in Navarra (2). The restorations of the cloister of the cathedral of Tudela.


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Diario de Navarra

Pilar Andueza Unanua

University of La Rioja

Diario de Navarra, in collaboration with the Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art of the University of Navarra, deals monthly, with specialists from various universities and institutions, with aspects related to restorations and interventions in large groups of our cultural heritage.

tool Undoubtedly, photography is a very useful tool in the field of monumental restoration, as it not only allows us to know the state in which many buildings were before being subjected to interventions of greater or lesser importance, but also to ascertain the scope of the works carried out. The transcendence of the images becomes even more relevant when the documentation preserved on a restoration is minimal or even non-existent, a fact that has unfortunately been the case in many cases in our country until recently. In fact, although international doctrines on conservation and restoration made it compulsory to carry out prior studies and archive all the documentation generated in the restoration process (Venice Charter, 1964, articles 4 and 16), in Spain we have had to wait for the enactment of autonomous laws on heritage for this requirement to become a reality. Not even Law 16/1985 on Spanish Historical Heritage, still in force today, made it mandatory, although fortunately the draft bill for its forthcoming amendment envisages the inclusion of a new article in this direction to protect our Assets of Cultural Interest. 

In Navarre, we have several photographs of some of the most important medieval monuments prior to their significant and far-reaching restorations. This is the case of the monasteries of Leyre and Iranzu, the collegiate church of Roncesvalles and the palace of Olite, to cite just a few examples. But because they are less well known and extremely illustrative, in my opinion, the ones corresponding to the cloister of the cathedral of Tudela, preserved in the file Real y General de Navarra, in the Arxiu Mas in Barcelona and, above all, those kept in the file of the Institución Príncipe de Viana and in the German Documentation Centre for Art History -file Fotográfico of the University of Marburg, stand out among them. Several of them make it possible, on the one hand, to clearly visualise how buildings have historically superimposed layers on the original construction and, on the other, to reflect critically on the image that many of our monuments offer us today, which is very different from the one they showed less than a hundred years ago. There is a general lack of knowledge about this last aspect in our society, which often accepts as authentic and original parts that were reconstructed or even invented by architect-restorers a few decades ago.

The history of the cloister

Around 1170, a few decades after Alfonso the Battler conquered Tudela (1119), the current cathedral dedicated to Saint Mary was built on the site of the city's main mosque. Inhabited by a community of canons who followed the rule of Saint Augustine, it was essential to build a cloister and adjoining rooms in the new temple, whose works were basically carried out in the last two decades of that same century in the Romanesque style. The new cloister space, with a rectangular floor plan, opened in its four bays through a gallery of semicircular arches supported on paired or triple columns with their capitals, although both in the centre of each side and in the angles there were pillars to which other capitals were attached in numbers of two and four respectively, which, together with the previous ones, mainly contained figurative sculptural motifs and some plant motifs. 

As can be seen in two of the photographs dated 1932, over the course of time the cloister underwent important transformations that substantially modified its original state. In the 16th century, the Romanesque arches were removed and a new brick structure of large pointed and semicircular arches separated by buttresses was erected. Each of them housed three of the Romanesque arches and a simple upper window to facilitate illumination. At the same time, towards the interior, the roof was demolished and replaced by a succession of simple ribbed vaults on each side, also made of brick and plaster. At a later date, a first floor was built on this lower level, lacking formal unity and opened by openings of different sizes subject, which were later closed at an undetermined date. And even on the north side, sheltered from the church, a third level was built as a sill. With this sum of elements, added for pragmatic and utilitarian reasons, the cloister reached the 20th century. 

The restoration of the cloister (1941-1950)

On 16 December 1884, Tudela Cathedral was declared a National Monument, equivalent to today's Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC). In this way, the Navarrese monument was placed as a firm candidate to receive public state funds for its restoration. Following the orders of the Monuments Commission of Navarre, the following year the architect Julián Arteaga drew up a report with the needs of the church in Tudela, consisting basically of repairing the vaults and roofs of the church. But he also pointed out the deplorable state of the cloister, as the simple primitive structure had been subjected to "enormous walls that rise up to twelve or fourteen metres in some places and support several floors, some of which serve as rooms for the church and others for the episcopal palace". As a consequence, he warned of the dislocation of the Romanesque columns, the cracking of the vaults and the inability of the buttresses to cope with the collapse of the walls, together with the destruction of many details of the decoration. However, it did not now propose restoration work given the "budget enormous, beyond the resources available". The document was sent to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, which issued a favourable report for the restoration, so that in 1887 the funds arrived with which a year later the roofs of the church were repaired, with some work being extended in later years, as studied by Emilio Quintanilla. 

The restoration of the cloister had to wait several decades for its execution, which took place between 1941 and 1950. As Mercedes Mutiloa has documented, the recently created Institución Príncipe de Viana began its restoration work by focusing its interest on this work and on the royal palace of Olite, entrusting the task to the architect José Yárnoz Larrosa. The work in Tudela began with the demolition of the upper floors and the dismantling of the entire cloister in view of the serious static problems that existed. After this liberation, the restoration process continued with the foundations of the structure and the reconstruction of the cloister at agreement with its original Romanesque layout, work that continued until 1944. Logically, the original parts were used, but new ones were also introduced in the bases, columns, capitals and arches, as well as ashlars, concrete and hidden metal parts. In 1948, the work was completed with a new flat wooden roof, topped with tiles on the outside. In the 1950s, the garden was renovated and decorated with trees, and the ground was paved with sandstone slabs and boulders, Materials , which were replaced in 1975 with brick.

Restoration criteria

Since restoration began as a scientific discipline in the 19th century, several theories and currents have been developed with very different criteria. However, the intervention in Tudela does not seem to respond to any doctrinal position, but rather to have been adapted to specific pathologies and problems. 

In Spain, after the Civil War and during practically the whole of Franco's regime, monumental restoration followed, with a few exceptions, outdated nineteenth-century criteria based on the so-called stylistic restoration. Promulgated and disseminated with extraordinary success by the Frenchman Viollet-le-Duc from the mid-19th century, it advocated recovering the original state of medieval buildings, even giving them a form that they might never have had, under the pretext of achieving a perfect, unitary and ideal building. refund In this sense, the restoration of the cloister of the cathedral of Tudela, trying to restore the cloister to its original appearance by demolishing the non-original parts, although with several centuries of history, including the ribbed vaults, and dismantling absolutely all the galleries to rebuild them, is in line with the echoes of this theory. 

On the contrary, the consolidation of the interior walls of the cloister, the incorporation of new unsculpted cubic capitals to replace the lost original Romanesque capitals, to harmonise the arches without falsifying them, as well as the use of modern Materials -iron and concrete-, link this intervention to the so-called scientific restoration, whose principles were enshrined in the Athens Charter (1931), the first international document on monumental restoration that roundly condemned the stylistic trend. Its maximum representative in our country was Leopoldo Torres Balbás, who visited Tudela cathedral in 1946 at the request of the then secretary of the Institución Príncipe de Viana, José Esteban Uranga, to carry out a report on the church and its cloister. 

Nowadays, when respect for all the construction phases of the monument is proclaimed, whatever the period, and interventions leading to the primitive formal unity are condemned, it is worth asking whether the restoration carried out in Tudela, with the elimination of the different floors of the cloister, was correct. Even at the risk of giving an excessively simplistic answer that would also require a great deal of qualification, I believe that Yárnoz Larrosa carried out a generally correct intervention, a child of his time and in no way alien to the winds that were blowing from abroad. Indeed, the additions that were made to the cloister space over the centuries not only seriously endangered the stability of the ensemble, but were deforming, disturbing and incongruous alterations to the historical and aesthetic values of the monument that prevented a correct reading of the work of art, reasons that today could also be adduced for their elimination (Letters of the Restoration of 1972 and 1987, article 6).

21st century re-restoration

Well into the 20th century, the cloister of Tudela Cathedral again showed signs of weakening, especially in its capitals, whose stone was disintegrating. Although it is not documented, it is quite possible that in 1979 a consolidating agent was applied, employee with total certainty at that time to the doorways of the Tudela cathedral and the cloister of Pamplona cathedral by the German Gustav Kraemer, which certainly did not solve the problem. Therefore, with the new century, a long process of re-restoration began. As is now customary, it began with exhaustive technical studies of everything subject (climate, terrain, stone, damage mapping, cleaning and desalination tests, monitoring, etc.) with the participation and advice of a team multidisciplinary made up of specialists from public bodies, several universities and private companies, under the direction of technicians from the Historical Heritage Service of the Government of Navarre. During this previous phase, carried out between 2003 and 2013, it was also necessary to carry out emergency treatments and to place fastenings and protections on the capitals to stop and alleviate the landslides. With these instructions, from 2013 to 2015 the actual conservation and restoration work was carried out, focusing on the roofs and, fundamentally, on the sculpture of the cloister, on which cleaning, protection and consolidation work was carried out. It was paid for by the Government of Navarre, the Obra Social "La Caixa" and the Caja Navarra Foundation, whose funds were used to ensure that the material life of this magnificent work of art and its legibility can be prolonged over time so that it can be enjoyed not only by today's citizens, but also by future generations.